HMI: Curriculum Matters

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Home economics from 5 to 16

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

Introduction (page 1)
The aims of home economics in schools (1)
Some principles of teaching home economics (2)
Objectives (6)
Some principles of assessment (17)
Appendix A: Objectives (21)
Appendix B: Checklist for primary schools (31)
Appendix C: Checklist for home economics teachers (32)
Appendix D: Selected booklist for teachers (35)

The text of Home economics from 5 to 16 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 13 June 2011.

Home economics from 5 to 16
HMI Series: Curriculum Matters No. 5

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1985
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

[title page]

Department of Education and Science

Home economics
from 5 to 16

Curriculum Matters 5


[page ii]

Crown copyright 1985
First published 1985
ISBN 0 11 270580 4

It is essential that this document should be read as a whole, since all sections are interrelated. For example, the lists of objectives must be seen in relation to the defined aims and to what is said about the principles of home economics teaching and assessment.

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This is the fifth in HM Inspectorate's discussion series Curriculum Matters. It sets out a framework within which schools might develop a home economics programme appropriate to their pupils.

The document focuses on the aims and objectives which might guide the teaching of home economics between the ages of 5 and 16 and considers their implications for the choice of content, for teaching approaches, and for the assessment of pupils' progress.

Like all other papers in this series, Home economics from 5 to 16 is a discussion document and the Inspectorate would welcome your comments and suggestions on it and the issues it raises.

Comments should be sent to the Staff Inspector (Home Economics), Department of Education and Science, York Road, London SE1 7PH by 31 December 1985.

Senior Chief Inspector

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The aims of home economics in schools

Some principles of teaching home economics

7 year old pupils7
11 year old pupils9
14 year old pupils12
16 year old pupils15

Some principles of assessment

Appendix A: Objectives

Appendix B: Checklist for primary schools

Appendix C: Checklist for home economics teachers

Appendix D: Selected booklist for teachers

[page 1]


1. The purposes of this paper are to explore briefly the aims of teaching home economics and to set down a series of objectives for pupils of different ages. Several complementary sections on teaching and on the evaluation and assessment of pupils' work have been included. Although the paper is addressed to teachers of home economics, it is not intended for specialists only; and it is hoped that teachers of other subjects, general teachers in primary schools, governors and parents among others will be able to take part in the discussion which it is intended to promote. Comments are invited and should be addressed by 31 December 1985 to the Staff Inspector (Home Economics), Department of Education and Science, York Road, London SE1 7PH.

The aims of home economics in schools

2. The primary aim of teaching home economics in schools is to help to prepare boys and girls for some important aspects of everyday living and the adult responsibilities of family life. All pupils, whatever their social, cultural or ethnic background, require to gain competence and to make informed choices in matters of hygiene, safety, health and diet. In due course, some will earn their living caring for, feeding, clothing and helping to shelter other people, at the same time as they are looking after themselves. Boys and girls need to learn how to organise their time and make use of available resources to best effect in matters to do with homes and households, and, although theory and knowledge are important in developing such competencies, they should be related closely to the performance of practical tasks.

3. Infant and junior children, quite apart from the differences between individuals in aptitude and interest, are unlikely to see clearly the direct relevance to them of this longer-term aim; and for them it is necessary to frame more immediate aims and objectives which are capable of fulfilment at different stages of their development. In primary schools, it is in any case unusual for home economics to be separately identified, and most children experience it as a mixture of discrete activities and aspects of other curricular areas in which home economics makes a contribution or provides a useful exemplification. It is for primary schools to

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decide how best to make these experiences sufficiently coherent to provide a foundation for later work in home economics.

4. An important part of the work at all stages has to do with the development of attitudes and values and of the capacity to make judgements based on a reasonable consideration of evidence about matters to do with running a home, diet and clothing. On all these and other matters pupils' own parents already have views, some of which may be conditioned by religious or cultural background. It is most necessary that teachers be alert to and knowledgeable about the conflict of principles or loyalties which may arise and exercise tact in building upon pupils' existing knowledge and experience.

5. That is not to say that they should avoid such problems at all costs. It is, for example, necessary to stress that home-making is equally important for boys and girls, and that in adult life the responsibilities of family life should be shared so that both men and women have sufficient opportunity to continue their own personal development. Within the school curriculum, in accordance with that view, equal opportunities should be available to girls and boys. Perhaps a less clear cut case is one in which factors such as personal taste, relative cost, convenience and nutritional value have to be considered and upon which opinions, even among experts, may legitimately differ.

6. The expansion of service industries gives home economics an additional relevance, in that many of the issues with which the subject deals provide a useful background for pupils who may proceed eventually to careers involving the care of children, the elderly or the handicapped; or catering in its various forms.

Some principles of teaching home economics

7. Home economics is an appropriate area of study for all pupils, both boys and girls, at all stages of schooling. Its effective teaching depends on a stated and clearly defined set of aims and objectives having regard to pupils' past social and cultural experience, their abilities, their present stage of development and interest and their future needs. The aims should be, related closely to those of the whole school and of other subjects.

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8. Much of the work in home economics at every stage should be of a practical and investigative nature. Pupils should be encouraged to judge and improve their own performance as well as receiving the necessary stimulus, guidance and help from the teacher.

9. Teaching methods should encourage the development of pupils' critical and analytical skills and the ability to transfer knowledge and understanding intelligently from one situation to others. Providing opportunities for pupils to think for themselves is essential if they are to consolidate learning and gain confidence in making the judgements and decisions which will be required of them in daily living.

10. It is important to ensure progression in the work at every stage. The learning of practical skills and the development of manual dexterity, for instance, should not be ends in themselves but part of a sequential programme of work.

11. The amount of work which can be covered will be governed by the time available. However short the time, work should be planned with a view to helping pupils to develop the ability to manage and organise time and resources.

12. One way in which a balance of work can be achieved is by varying the primary objectives of lessons. The emphasis will sometimes be on reading and interpreting instructions and achieving a well finished product, at other times on the development of social skills or on opportunities to investigate, experiment and make decisions. On some occasions the ability of pupils to evaluate the outcomes of problem solving in a group will be stressed.

13. Where pupils have differing abilities and are at varied stages of development there must be differentiation of the level of demand and expectation. For those pupils with special needs, for instance, especially when they are taught in mixed ability classes, the provision of specific and appropriate teaching resources and help is essential. For pupils of low ability or at a very early stage of reading the provision of simplified instruction cards may be a useful device not only to help the activity but also to make reading relevant. The stimulus of exciting practical and investigative activity may indeed give a strong motivation to such pupils to improve their reading ability.

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14. All teaching should take account of the variety of family and cultural backgrounds from which pupils come. In particular the conduct of discussion groups, which may form a valuable teaching strategy, requires careful planning and skilful handling if the debate is to be a real learning experience and not simply the reinforcement of traditional prejudices, most especially where sensitive issues are being considered. The consideration of the cultural diversity in clothing, food, beliefs and social customs in informed discussion may go some way in securing sympathetic understanding of and respect for ethnic and religious minority groups. Equally, when dealing with matters concerning the family, teachers should remember that the families in which children live do not necessarily conform to any standard pattern. Children who live with one parent, or in an 'extended family' or in community homes are also members of families. Wherever the word 'family' is used in this paper it should be taken to mean any household group.

15. In the primary school the aims and objectives should find expression through the general work of the school and of each class teacher and in specific activities within an integrated subject framework. Some suggestions for the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes which might be included in work with pupils up to the age of 11 years are to be found in paragraphs 30 to 43 and in Appendices A and B.

16. In secondary schools it is not uncommon at present, partly because of falling rolls, to find that a teaching group contains pupils of widely varying ability, from potential GCE O-level candidates to slow learners. If there is to be successful teaching of these mixed target groups, effectively differentiated group and individual work and monitoring strategies are of the utmost importance.

17. Maintaining the interest and challenge of the work for pupils of exceptionally high ability in the subject requires no less careful consideration. Pupils who are particularly efficient and speedy in completing tasks may extend their studies in a variety of ways. Some teachers have been able to set up centres of interest where investigation in greater depth can take place using tape-slide sequences and computer and video-programmes. Optimum use of local authority and school libraries and resource centres has enabled teachers to open up new aspects of work at very little additional expense to their departments.

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18. For those pupils in secondary schools who do not take public examinations in home economics a relevant course might include or relate to work experience, community service projects and to the pupils' role as consumers.

19. Pupils need to learn how to search for the information they need, evaluate it and use it in a practical situation. Thus the provision of a wide range of good reference material is of great importance. The manuals which come with appliances can be valuable as can some commercial teaching aids and advertising material. Commercial posters may be put to the best use when adapted specifically for the purpose of a lesson or unit of work.

20. It is rarely appropriate for pupils to copy recipes, pictures or passages from textbooks or the black/whiteboard. Home economics teachers should emphasise rather the selection and economical noting of information. Material which sets out current research findings as the basis for discussion is useful since it gives pupils the opportunity to develop skills in communication and objective criticism.

21. The provision of teaching aids which pupils may use as a means of self-help in problem solving is essential. Such aids are particularly important in the learning of sequential processes such as those used in construction work with fabrics.

22. Microcomputers can be employed to advantage in the teaching of home economics. Their immediate use as sorters and storers of information may be helpful in maintaining knowledge banks of recipes, nutritional information and appliance instructions. Problem-solving exercises may be devised in such areas as drawing-up time plans with alternative strategies or manipulating nutritional information relating to individual needs.

23. In focusing on the development of competence for living, home economics draws some of its content from other subject areas. It is therefore essential that within the school there is inter-subject liaison. The main purposes of such liaison are to ensure that there is neither undue repetition of content nor discontinuity and to try to see that positive links are made to assist progression and natural reinforcement.

24. Where home economics forms part of an integrated programme involving a number of themes including, for example, health education and personal and social education, there is need

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for adequate course management time to be used for liaison about content and coverage, teaching styles, evaluation and assessment, reporting and records of achievement.

25. Planned progression and coordination of work are also required where home economics is taught in two institutions - for instance a middle and an upper school. At the very least the children moving on from one to the other should be accompanied by details of the work covered over the previous year or two. If possible, however, much more detailed discussion and consideration by the teachers concerned are helpful to ensure continuity.

26. In the teaching of home economics the learning environment is of very considerable importance. The existence of good facilities and well planned teaching spaces does not of itself guarantee effective learning, but environment and atmosphere are as important in an institution as they are at home. Constant vigilance, careful programming of lessons and sufficient ancillary cleaning hours are required to ensure reasonable room cleanliness. Sound home economics teaching should exemplify good practice in such matters as hygiene, clearing up during and after work with food and serving meals pleasantly in a clean and attractive environment while allowing for individuality. In departments which pay careful attention to environmental considerations learning can take place incidentally as well as in formally planned lessons. The recent decline in the use of home economics flats and dining areas is regrettable for a number of reasons, not least since valuable opportunities are lost for social education and for the creation of a more home-like environment.

27. Home economics teachers, like all others, need to review their range of teaching techniques and methods from time to time. Local education authority advisers or inspectors should be kept in touch with the work of home economics departments so that they may help teachers to identify training needs and to cater for these needs through appropriate school-based, local, regional or national inservice training provision.


28. The content of home economics courses may conveniently be categorised in three main areas (all of which include health, safety and consumer education):

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  • Home and family
  • Nutrition and food
  • Textiles
However, if such a framework is used, in practice the three areas should be interrelated to provide a balance of experience for the pupils, and to reflect the reality of domestic life and the responsibilities of parenthood.

29. In the sections which follow, and in the appendices, detailed objectives for pupils of different ages have been set out. Because of the differences in the aptitudes and abilities of children, the extent to which the objectives can be achieved will vary; more able pupils will forge ahead while less able pupils will take more time to develop skills and understanding. Both primary and secondary schools should provide a balanced experience of home economics for pupils of all abilities. This should contain adequate practical experience.

Objectives for 7 year old pupils

30. In nursery, primary and first schools the main objective is to start to lay the foundations of knowledge, attitudes and skills, which will be the basis for later, more formal work in home economics. The rest of this section suggests a context in which they may be provided, and should be read in conjunction with Appendix A.

Home and family

31. Social and cultural aspects of the family and the community may be considered through role-play and day-to-day discussion and interaction between pupils and teachers, much of which will arise informally. The teacher will help the children to develop language skills, to widen vocabulary and to shape ideas and form concepts relating to home economics. Receiving strangers into the school can give rise to opportunities for pupils to learn how to make visitors feel welcome by looking after them. Through working with adults and other children from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds, pupils learn to exercise tolerance and develop an awareness of relationships and interdependence. They may become aware of cultural or social attitudes which differ from their own and can be given opportunities to make decisions for themselves. These activities lie at the root of children's understanding of their

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role in family and social life and of how that role will change as they grow up.

32. Work done in many parts of the curriculum and the observations of pupils themselves in their own homes and in school form the substance of much of home economics in primary schools. Children have a variety of experiences which can be drawn upon at a later stage of their school life when home economics becomes a more specialised part of their curriculum. Most young children will have seen that food may be stored in cupboards, or in refrigerators or in freezers, and may be encouraged to investigate why different foods need to be stored in different conditions. They will be aware of furnishings and fabrics, of textures and colours, of lighting, ventilation and heating, of the structure and styles of rooms and buildings. They may have observed the effects of strong sunlight on some materials, and the way that condensation is produced under certain conditions. Some of them may have put a great deal of thought into managing their pocket money and how they are going to finance an unusually expensive purchase. In working on historical, geographical, scientific and literary topics, children will frequently be uncovering new information about, and developing their understanding of, homes and families.

Nutrition and food

33. Work in the study of food is often an important part of the study of animals and plants and the way in which we use them, and this can be readily linked with basic ideas about human nutrition and growth. Even at this early stage it is not too soon to begin to encourage healthy eating habits. This can be done in discussing both the choice of food which children bring with them for snack lunches and the school meal and by considering how the same ingredients can produce different styles of food; for example, loaves and chapattis. Simple work with food should always be seen as part of nutrition education but it can fulfil other objectives. These include the development of manipulative skills, the experience of working cooperatively in groups, the opportunity to sharpen sensory perception, broadening experience by tasting different ingredients and foods, increasing accuracy in weighing and measuring, following pictures or very simple written instructions, and experiencing pleasure in making something to eat.

Textiles and other materials

34. Through experimental and investigative practical work with textiles and other materials in art and craft young children can

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be helped to perceive shape, size, colour, tone and texture; they can discover how materials may be cut) shaped, joined and decorated and how fabrics are, for example affected by wetting and creasing, and why. Pupils should be encouraged to question why, for instance, quilted materials are used for clothing in cold weather and why different styles of clothing have come to be used by different ethnic and cultural groups. In such work it is essential to provide a range of resources, equipment and tools and to teach children how to use them. Although dexterity is a primary objective, attention should also be given to the development of aesthetic awareness and tactile enjoyment and of children's ability to concentrate and persevere. The ability of pupils to cut shapes without using a pattern and to find original ways of stitching to make imaginative pictures or other items can be built upon and used. Group projects can be as educationally rewarding as individual work, as long as there is an opportunity for each child to exercise choice and contribute something distinctive.

35. Children should be encouraged to observe both the natural and man-made environment closely, through experiences inside and outside the school. There is value in visiting the local area to collect leaves or flowers, for example, to use as the starting point for a class or group textile work. Other natural objects, artefacts and pictures should be provided in the classroom. Such experiences help to form a background for later work in home economics.

Objectives for 11 year old pupils

36. Between the ages of 7 and 11 the home is likely to continue to be the most formative influence on the child's development and it provides the basis for much of the work.

37. The reorganisation of schools in recent years has created a variety of institutions in which pupils of 7 to 11 are taught. Whether there are specialist facilities for practical activity or not, a good range of home economics subject content is practicable in the curriculum for both boys and girls. Some of the subject's objectives for pupils aged up to 11 can be met by planning and teaching specific lessons in home economics. Other objectives will be more naturally fulfilled as part of topic work. By the age of 11, building on previous work, and in preparation for transfer to the next stage of schooling, for the majority of pupils, the following major objectives should have been fulfilled. Appendix A will be useful as a more specific guide to what might be expected of pupils at this stage.

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Home and family

38. Although a long-term aim will be the setting up of a home of their own it is unrealistic to expect most pupils to be able to relate directly to this until a later age. The main objective therefore ought to be to develop understanding and knowledge of the homes and families in which they live and to encourage children to help and to accept appropriate responsibilities.

39. Pupils should be able to recognise various kinds of houses and the major materials with which they are constructed. They should begin to understand the financial demands of running a home in the sense that various sources of energy, household goods and services must be provided and paid for. The importance of household hygiene and cleanliness should be appreciated as should the links between personal, home and community health; this should include knowledge of basic cleaning techniques for houses and furnishings. Some of the work should be taught through practical experiment and should involve the application of scientific method. Work on the prevention of accidents in the home should find a place in the curriculum. Pupils should begin to consider the needs of other family members including, for instance, younger brothers and sisters, and those for whom special care needs to be provided. Some of the differences between their own way of life and that of their neighbours and contemporaries, including those of different cultural backgrounds in this country and in other parts of the world, might be highlighted. The way in which individual, family and group behaviour affects other people might be explored with a view to continuing the development of considerate and responsible behaviour.

Nutrition and food

40. A major thrust of home economics teaching should be in the field of nutrition education, focusing specifically on the development of healthy attitudes and behaviour in relation to food consumption. Although previous work will have encouraged an awareness of the need to increase consumption of some foods and cut back on, or even avoid, others, it is in the latter part of primary schooling where more positive teaching will be undertaken. All home economics teaching must itself exemplify good practice - which will mean a radical departure from the present over-dependence on flour, sugar and fat-based baking in schools - towards the making of meals using, for example, fruit and vegetables (especially those in season), brown bread, jacket potatoes

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and cereals. The cost implications of these changes for both schools and families need to be fully explored and discussed as do the cost, use and potential benefits of convenience and 'fast' foods. In this area, there may well be differences of opinion between home and school, to which teachers need to be sensitive.

41. Understanding and knowledge of the storage and cooking of foods and of their measurement may be developed through experimental work which begins to give insight into scientific aspects of substances and their behaviour under certain conditions. Pupils should be able to handle an increasing range of tools and equipment for food preparation and processing. The aesthetic aspects of serving food should be included.


42. Much textile work up to the age of 11 will be developed in art, craft and design education and mayor may not include specific reference to household textiles. A range of teaching techniques needs to be employed. A most successful method is that which involves problem solving and some elements of pupil decision making. In classes where every child makes a similar item predetermined by the teacher, very little learning may be involved. Children need opportunities to decide for themselves how to tackle a problem, and which materials and form of construction best suit the purpose; and to devise ways of assessing whether or not what they have made has been successful. Exercises might relate to personal or small household items - either functional or purely decorative. Often embroidery and other craft techniques will be involved. Cooperative or group projects with pupils of this age have much to recommend them.

43. Although it is usually unrealistic at this stage to make any clothing other than very simple garments, it is nevertheless possible to begin teaching about ways of selecting clothing, suitable fabrics and fibres, a range of stitching and fastening techniques and laundering processes. Again, experiments, for example, with fabric detergents, with insulating material or fabrics of different strength and absorbency, can be an effective teaching tool. By the age of 11 most pupils should be able to use much of the language and vocabulary of design, including the elements of colour, line, shape, tone and texture. They should be beginning to appreciate the work of others - including some of the more successful and interesting craftsmen and craftswomen of our time and times past - as well as engaging in their own exploration and activity.

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Objectives for 14 year old pupils

44. For the majority of 11 to 14 year old boys and girls home economics appears on the school timetable as a separate subject. During these three years there ought to be a wide range of work with increasing emphasis on the pupils' ability to manage time, money and other resources. Although it would be ideal for all pupils to study home economics until the age of 16, the extreme pressures on the school timetable and the poor attitude of some boys to the subject may sometimes make this difficult. Thus home economics in the years up to 14 ought to provide experiences, knowledge and skills which will provide as fully as possible for those who may not continue this area of study, and also provide a sound foundation for further learning whether this be in school or in later life.

45. The curriculum for 11 to 14 year olds should not be dominated by the syllabus demands of courses beyond 14. Some schools work on the basis of a rotational timetable where pupils experience a number of practical areas in turn. If the objectives for 14 year olds are to be met within such arrangements the total allocation of time given to the subject must be adequate and the blocks of time ought to be long enough for teachers to get to know pupils well and be able to plan a sequence and range of work which allows for progression and development. Each of the aspects of the subject needs to be included - although some topics, for example, some of the work in family studies, might be more appropriately placed in the third year of secondary education when pupils have reached greater maturity than in the first year. The integration of the component parts continues to be of fundamental importance.

Home and family

46. By the age of 14 most pupils should be capable of understanding the need to plan and budget carefully whatever income is available to a household. The primary objective is not to attempt to dictate ideal solutions but for pupils to be in command of a range of knowledge and understanding so that they can order priorities, predict some of the likely consequences of decisions being made and begin to develop self-confidence in dealing with challenging situations. Enabling pupils to compare the prices of different brands of household appliances, cleaning agents, food and sources of energy and balancing the cost against effectiveness, are important aspects of a balanced home economics course. Learning about different kinds of family structure and the cultural

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influences that inform that choice of life-style helps pupils in their relationships with different social and ethnic groups.

47. Making pupils responsible for taking some decisions about their own work - its cost, timing and organisation - paves the way for making more complex decisions and choices later. As part of the preparation for parenthood it is important for pupils to be aware of the consequences of their own actions and particularly to understand as fully as possible the responsibilities of bringing children into the world. This should be linked to an overall understanding of some of the different needs of individual family members in a household. A knowledge of some aspects of the health and social services which are available might be included, as would basic teaching about simple first aid and the prevention of accidents in the home - especially because there are pupils who are unlikely to study home economics beyond this stage. However, care must be exercised in avoiding unnecessary duplication if these aspects are covered in other parts of the school curriculum. The part which new technological developments may play in homes of the future should be discussed as opportunities arise.

Nutrition and food

48. Most pupils enjoy cooking, most home economics rooms are well equipped for this activity, and for most home economics teachers this element of study has been extensively covered in their training. The result has been that food studies have been pursued often at the expense of other aspects of home economics.

49. One of the primary challenges facing home economics teachers is the part they can play in developing pupils' awareness of the importance of a healthy, varied diet taking into account social and cultural influences and in encouraging them to forgo some foods and eat others. Such a diet, with reduced fats, sugar and salt and increased fibre content, should form the basis of work in meal planning and preparation. This will mean a change in the cooking techniques from those which have for so long dominated both public examination requirements and work with younger children in schools. Thus the major objective of teaching up to 14 will be an extension and consolidation of understanding about nutrition and food, in particular in relation to the children themselves and members of their families.

50. Much practical work should encourage pupils to budget for and select foods for a variety of occasions, including packed and school lunches, to meet their own particular dietary goals. For those

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pupils with responsibility at home for preparing food for younger brothers and sisters the objectives should take cognisance of this.


51. As pupils grow through the middle years most tend to take increasing interest in their appearance. This interest can be used by teachers as a valuable motivating force for the study of fashion, the cultural, social and psychological aspects of clothing, garment decoration and the use of fabrics. In the selection of clothing, as of interior home furnishings, there is the opportunity to develop an appreciation of aesthetic and design considerations as well as to express personal preferences. Sometimes it can be much more cost effective to make clothes and household articles than to buy them ready made; making may offer a wider choice of style, fabric and colour.

52. The first objective in making clothes is to teach pupils how to shape two-dimensional materials to fit body form and shape and the second is to teach some of the techniques of holding the fabric together and fastening it. This will involve the making of patterns (or the use of basic commercial ones) and the development of machine- or hand-sewing techniques. It is important to include some lessons about the selection of clothes for individuals to suit figure-type, occasion of wear and the expression of personality. Discussion should also include the costs involved and the length of time which the garments are required to last; the dictates of fashion will be a topic worthy of consideration in its own right.

53. In a design faculty where there are common design education components, a wider variety of work may be possible. Soft sculpture and clothes may be embellished with embroidery and incorporate art and craft techniques, fabric printing and painting as well as more traditional constructional ways of working such as patchwork and appliqué.

54. The setting of a design brief can help to stimulate original thought and exciting work. Cooperative group effort is as important as individual achievement. Knowledge of textile fibres needs to be developed at the 11 to 14 stage. Pupils should have a clear understanding of the major laundering and cleaning processes which are possible with the range of fabrics most commonly encountered in everyday use. Experiments relating, for example, to stain removal, the absorption of dyes and the effects

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of exposure to sunlight may help to establish some of the reasoning behind fabric treatment and provide useful knowledge and experience. It is particularly important to encourage pupils to read and follow manufacturers' instructions in the care of fabrics and the use of detergents and other substances.

55. Appendix A expands on these matters.

Objectives for 16 year old pupils

56. Pupils who choose to include home economics in their curriculum up to the age of 16 begin to perceive more clearly the relevance of the subject to their future lives. It is important that the option be available to both girls and boys, especially since work up to this stage needs to have emphasised the joint responsibility of the sexes in home and family matters. For a small but significant number of less able 14 to 16 year olds, home economics with its emphasis on practical activity provides a context in which the more abstract linguistic and numerical skills can be reinforced and improved.

57. The aim of developing the complementary themes of self-sufficiency alongside interdependence will continue to be important. With the increased scientific and technological awareness gained up to the age of 14 in the whole range of school curriculum subjects, pupils are in a stronger position in the years up to 16 not only to handle increasingly sophisticated household appliances but to understand how they work. Opportunities should, therefore, be provided for them to use and evaluate a broad range of equipment and products, and to think about the changes in housekeeping methods and organisation which they make possible.

58. In the field of public examinations there ought to be a core of objectives related to the integrated, component parts of home economics. The separate examining of any single aspect is undesirable, except when it features as an extension study within a broad home economics syllabus. The criteria set out for the General Certificate of Secondary Education and Appendix A of this paper exemplify the principle.

Home studies

59. The work in home studies has hitherto been related to pupils sharing in the work of running and maintaining a home. There should be an increased emphasis in the final years of statutory

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schooling on knowing about acquiring and setting up a household, com paring the costs of renting or buying accommodation of various kinds, considering in some detail the economics of different ways of purchasing goods and, in general, managing resources efficiently.


60. Previous work in this aspect of home economics has inevitably concentrated on the knowledge and understanding of the everyday needs and care of members of families. By the age of 16 many pupils will be capable of appreciating the responsibilities of parenthood and of considering broader issues such as how families are affected by social, economic and cultural factors and how they may obtain help when it is needed. The effects on families of the birth of children can be readily understood by 16 year olds and, through carefully organised and supervised work in play groups and similar institutions, insight can be gained into the stages of young children's development and needs and into the different patterns and priorities in child rearing of families from various social and cultural backgrounds.

Nutrition and food

61. Much of the basic knowledge of foods, food costs, and their value to the body will already have been understood by this stage and the primary objectives should be to consolidate this knowledge by putting it into practice in the provision of suitable healthy meals for different occasions, with particular groups of people in mind. Although not all pupils will be able to understand research findings on the relationship between foods and health, the majority should be able to read manufacturers' instructions and food tables with understanding in order to make considered choices.

62. A further series of objectives will be to extend pupils' ability, through practice, to use kitchen equipment and food preparation tools effectively, and to encourage a better understanding of their scientific and technical principles. Topics such as the storage, preservation and costs of food and the testing of equipment to compare effectiveness and merits should be included.


63. The range of objectives for work with textiles will be related to deepening understanding of the scientific and design aspects. Knowledge of fabrics and fibres and their suitability for a variety of purposes will be advanced as will the ability to undertake

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increasingly sophisticated design tasks. Understanding of the scientific and technological products and processes associated with the treatment of textiles, especially during cleaning and laundering, should be further developed.

64. In the study of clothing pupils should be helped to make very simple patterns from their own designs as well as to select those from commercial sources which suit various figure types and personal needs. Further understanding of the psychological, cultural and social implications of clothing and home furnishings may be included.

65. Work with textiles at this, as at other levels, is associated with a broad approach to design and to other materials, but the main thrust will continue to be the meeting of specific needs in functional, cost effective and aesthetically pleasing processes or products.

66. A list of core objectives and extension studies in aspects of home economics for pupils aged up to 16 years is provided in Appendix A.

Some principles of assessment

67. Unless specific and clear objectives are set down for each lesson, each module of study and ultimately for the conduct of home economics teaching in the school, it is difficult to measure whether or not learning has taken place.

68. In one sense, if teachers are truly concerned that children are learning, assessment is inseparable from the whole teaching process, for unless they know what stage of development children have reached, which areas of content they have grasped, and which skills have been modified they cannot properly provide relevant teaching material or adopt appropriate teaching techniques.

69. Home economics is concerned as much, if not more, with the development of attitudes and values as with learning skills and acquiring knowledge, and ways need to be developed of assessing pupils' development in these. Progress in the development of personal and social qualities may find expression on a pupil profile, record of achievement or report to parents.

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70. In assessing intermediate and shorter term goals it is of fundamental importance for teachers to be clear about which assessment procedures are to be employed, and for what purpose. For example, they may be used to help the pupil to remedy a deficiency or to mark and signify the conclusion of a unit of work.

71. Assessment undertaken with and for the children themselves, for example that conducted at the conclusion of a session of practical work, should make plain what a mark, grade or comment relates to or represents. Is it merely the appearance of any finished product? Is it the way the work was approached and handled? Is it the management and clearing up of the working environment? Is it the behaviour, cooperation or effort during the lessons? Such assessment should, above all, make a positive contribution to the improvement of performance in relation to what has already been achieved and the development of thinking as well as give encouragement and promote pleasure in achievement.

72. In the early years of schooling the assessment of pupils' progress will be made mainly by the teacher observing and monitoring performance. Sometimes questions will be asked to discover the level of understanding; occasionally specific tasks may be set in order, for instance, to evaluate the degree of control and coordination. A simple checklist might be employed to record skills successfully accomplished or the need for remedial or extension work. It is appropriate, even at an early stage, to discuss with children how they are getting on and some ways of improving performance.

73. During work in the middle and later years of schooling a particularly useful way of assessing pupils' work, especially that related to problem solving, is by helping pupils with their own evaluation of achievement. Children are often far more critical of their own and their peers' performance than their teachers would be and often set themselves high standards.

74. The primary use of assessment by teachers in the subject should be as a diagnostic tool so that the discovery of gaps or discrepancies in the mastery of the work can be remedied and progress maintained at a rate appropriate to the individual. This is particularly important in sequential learning where the failure to grasp a fundamental concept may well put all future work in that field in jeopardy. Details of a Scottish Council for Research in Education document relating to this type of assessment are given in Appendix D.

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75. An important function of assessment is the contribution that it can make to language development of pupils, including, and perhaps particularly for those for whom English is a second language. It is necessary in all classrooms and particularly in those where there are bilingual pupils, for teachers to be aware of the misunderstandings that may occur and how learning may be inhibited if insufficient care is taken to ensure that work is presented in a way which is clear to all pupils. In such circumstances it is necessary for teachers to understand the processes involved in learning and using English as a second language and the particular opportunities their subject offers for this while drawing on specialist support as necessary.

76. In the marking of written and project work full cognisance should be taken of the school and departmental policies. Particular care should be taken to correct pupils' written work, especially if it might be used for revision or practical purposes. Assessment of such work should be constructive. High marks should be given for work which shows qualities such as good analysis, careful research, clear presentation and deductive thinking. A relatively small percentage of marks should be awarded for copying directly from other sources or for the mere repetition of facts.

77. If pupils are to be successfully involved all the way through school in a demanding evaluation of their own work they need the opportunity to see models of good practice and teachers should devise ways of providing these. If the process of self-appraisal and improving performance is a continuing one there are likely to be relatively few problems in preparing pupils to reach the standards and expectations of public examinations.

78. Sometimes there is an erroneous assumption that the informal exchanges within the staff group are an adequate means of knowing about the pupils' circumstances, needs and performance. Whatever the form of organisation in the secondary school and especially if pupils are rotationally timetabled or if there is part-time staffing, simple, carefully maintained pupil records should be kept. Opinions vary about the type and availability of records; the degree of detail, accessibility, confidentiality, and record storage. The completion and use of records needs careful consideration and an agreed departmental policy. All comments should be dated and erased if and when they become irrelevant.

79. Record keeping aids assessment and brief, dated notes of the work actually covered by each class are helpful whether in the form

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of lesson intentions or as the evaluation of work which has taken place. Lists of pupils' absences, specific problems or outcomes arising from the lessons and points to be picked up at a future date may also feature. This kind of record is useful if someone other than the usual teacher has to take the next lesson, but the discipline of recording may itself give rise to closer review, evaluation and assessment of the learning experiences provided and of teaching techniques.

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Appendix A: Objectives

Objectives are here presented under three headings: the values and attitudes which home economics seeks to foster; the knowledge and concepts to be developed at the ages of 7, 11, 14 and 16; and the skills which home economics should promote through a variety of activities. In working towards these objectives schools will need to take account of the variety of previous experience which children bring with them to school.

Values and attitudes

Values and attitudes are formed outside as well as within schools and start to take shape in the pre-school years. They develop gradually and at varying rates so that the means of fostering them and their manifestation will differ according to pupils' ages and stages of development. Despite such variations home economics has a contribution to make to the formation of values and attitudes throughout the compulsory years of education.

In view of the importance of the influence of the home in society, all pupils should come to recognise the significance of the family, its duty of care to all its members, their interdependence and the need for them to help one another. Pupils should develop a considerate attitude towards others both within and outside the family, concern for their welfare, a wish to make them feel valued and a sensitive awareness of their feelings. They should develop a responsible attitude to the procreation and the raising of children.

Pupils should learn to value good health and seek to promote it by paying attention to diet and hygiene. They should be discriminating in their choice of food in the light of the knowledge and understanding they have gained and should set store by personal hygiene, cleanliness in the home, safety and a well ordered environment.

As consumers, now and in the future, pupils should accept the need to exercise responsible choice, weighing the comparative merits of different courses of action, in deciding, for example, whether to go ahead and buy, whether to make do and mend or whether to go without altogether. Such choices should be informed by a recognition of the need for economy at a personal level and in society as a whole, an appreciation of the difference between the essential and the inessential and awareness of the problems which may arise from excessive consumption.

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Pupils should take pleasure in making things and in doing things well. They should, for example, gain satisfaction from the attractive presentation of a palatable, nutritious meal, from the efficient completion of a given task, from the successful design of a garment and the aesthetic appeal of a finished product. When working in a group they should be cooperative, appreciate the efforts of others and take account of their opinions. When working individually they should value the opportunity for independent thought, decision and action yet be willing to seek and accept advice. In the process they should develop confidence in their own ability, perseverance and pride in seeing a job through.

It is important that pupils enjoy home economics, see its relevance to their everyday needs and recognise the benefits it offers in seeking to improve the quality of relationships and the quality of life. In discovering the variety of food, dress and customs within our society they should not only develop tolerance of what is different but also gain an appreciation of its rich cultural diversity.

Knowledge and concepts

At the age of 7
boys and girls should know and understand:

Home and family

  • how different members of their family are related to one another
  • the kinds of tasks required in running a home and the responsibilities of family members in discharging them
  • which things in the home are potentially dangerous if misused (eg matches) and which substances should not be eaten or drunk (medicines)
Nutrition and food
  • the characteristics of food used at home and at school, eg its colour, flavour
  • whether common categories of food come from plants or from animals and in certain cases (eg bread, milk) the names of these plants or animals
  • that water has a variety of uses in the home including cooking and cleaning

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  • that food needs to be handled hygienically if disease is to be prevented
  • in a general way how food contributes to growth and health
  • the names of common clothing and furnishing materials
  • that different fabrics are affected in different ways by factors such as stretching
  • that fabrics can be held together in different ways
  • that fabrics can be coloured in various ways and that colour is strongly affected by factors such as sunlight or frequent washing.
At the age of 11
boys and girls should know and understand:

Home and family

  • the common types of living accommodation
  • the names and main properties of common building materials
  • something of the ways in which people's living accommodation is related to geographical, historical and other factors
  • the forms of energy available for use in the home
  • a range of uses to which different forms of energy may be put
  • simple notions of value for money; and that 'value' includes consideration of personal satisfaction
  • how to avoid or prevent accidents at home
  • that personal hygiene is an important contributor to good health
  • about the differences in people's life style and some of the reasons for these
Food and nutrition
  • the main nutrients in familiar foods such as dairy products, meat, fruit and vegetables

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  • the principles of a balanced diet and the benefits of exercising discrimination in what is eaten
  • in general terms, the effects of heat on different food substances
  • the best conditions for storing the most common foods
  • the staple food of different ethnic and cultural communities
  • some of the influences of culture and religion on people's eating habits
  • the importance of accurate weighing and measuring in food preparation
  • how fabrics may be selected to suit a variety of purposes, for example, to conserve heat or to allow it to be dissipated
  • a variety of ways in which fabric may be stitched or otherwise held together
  • how fibres are spun, woven or knitted
  • those situations in which materials such as leather or plastics can be used with advantage
  • how primary colours may be mixed in paint or combined in thread to produce other colours
  • about the work of notable craftsmen of the past and present.
At the age of 14
boys and girls should know and understand:

Home and family

  • the general needs of families and that individual members of the family have different needs which must be reconciled eg those of the very young and those of the elderly
  • the responsibilities consequent upon bringing children into the world
  • the nature of the costs involved in providing and running a home

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  • the possible sources of income and heads of expenditure in a household budget
  • the agencies of help and support for families with special problems
Food and nutrition
  • the relationship between eating habits, lifestyles and health
  • the need to balance the intake and expenditure of energy
  • nutritional needs of various groups eg the young, the sedentary, the pregnant
  • the main nutrients found in food
  • how advances in technology have changed people's preferences in food
  • the basic cooking processes and when to use them
  • how food reacts during the various processes of preparation
  • the causes of food spoilage and ways of preventing it
Work with textiles
  • the properties of fabrics and their suitability for different uses
  • the effect of heat, light, water and chemicals on fabrics and fibres
  • the causes of the soiling of fabrics and how to clean them.
At the age of 16
pupils should know how to make appropriate provision for basic human needs of shelter, clothing, food and care and, according to the options chosen, understand:

The home

  • about heating, insulation, lighting, ventilation; air pollution, gas and electricity
  • the priorities in setting up a basic household unit and the likely costs
  • how to choose and maintain household equipment and furnishing

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  • how to utilise space effectively within the home
  • about the interdependence of family and community
The family
  • the contribution that food, clothing and the home make to the health and social well-being of family members
  • some of the socio-economic and cultural factors which affect family life
  • how children develop physically, socially, intellectually and emotionally and how to care for them
Food and nutrition
  • the current dietary advice* which recommends that the total proportion of dietary energy supplied by fat should be reduced, that there should be some reduction in salt intake, no increase in the intake of sugar and an increase in dietary fibre
  • the relevant scientific principles and their application in preparing, cooking and serving food
  • the causes and prevention of food spoilage and contamination
  • how to select and safely use equipment for food preparation
  • the consumer aspects of food hygiene, shopping for food, and legislation
  • the variety of food shopping facilities available and their relative merits
  • the function and organic sources of nutrients
  • the origin, nature, cost and suitability of fabrics and fibres for clothes and household articles
  • the effects of age, sex, health, occupation, life style and financial resources on garment design
*The Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA).

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  • how social and cultural influences affect clothing and home furnishing
  • how to select, use and adapt commercial patterns for household items and clothes
  • how to make simple patterns from small-scale diagrams or from one's own drawings and ideas.

Whether pupils work as individuals or as members of a group home economics is essentially concerned with planning, designing and working, in ways which involve investigation and experiment and the organisation and management of time and materials. It has to do with important issues concerning the social and material welfare of people living, with a greater or lesser degree of independence, as members of families. It is therefore particularly well placed to play its part in developing a wide range of skills in pupils as they progress through school, because it provides many contexts within which those skills are called into play and which relate closely to pupils' own homes and families.

Skills have been categorised in a number of publications. In The curriculum from 5 to 16, Curriculum Matters 2 (HMSO 1985), they were listed as:

  • Communication skills
  • Observation skills
  • Study skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Physical and practical skills
  • Creative and imaginative skills
  • Numerical skills
  • Personal and social skills
In that publication (paragraph 101) promoting such skills was related directly to the type and range of classroom activities.

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Listed below are examples of activities - and they are examples only and not a checklist - in which pupils should be involved if they are to benefit from the special advantages of home economics as a medium through which skills can be developed. They are related to primary and secondary schools only so as to indicate that, as skills and competence develop, so the tasks will need to become more sophisticated and demanding. Much of the nature of the activity will, of course, depend upon the guidance of the teacher, so that the title of the activity as listed here is no more than a starting point.

Primary years

The primary school curriculum affords many and varied opportunities for boys and girls to develop the skills listed above which create a store of experiences which can be extended and built upon. Examples of activities include:

  • experiencing a varied selection of foodstuffs and fabrics
  • preparing nutritious snacks and drinks using a variety of tools and equipment
  • performing simple 'household' tasks effectively and safely
  • following instructions for using equipment and materials
  • cooperating with others in group activities, sharing ideas
  • meeting members of the community and conversing with them
  • comparing the costs of similar goods
  • estimating the nutritional value of the food eaten over a short period, eg a day
  • calculating the cost of prepared food
  • following a time plan for practical activities
  • making simple investigations into the properties of fabrics in everyday use
  • deciding upon the suitability of these fabrics for various purposes

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  • testing and utilising a variety of methods of holding fabric together
  • making simple household articles of fabric choosing suitable material and methods of construction
  • making a fabric collage using natural objects for inspiration and applying knowledge of colour, shape and texture.
Secondary years

Examples of activities include:

  • comparing the costs of installing various appliances in the home and the costs of running them eg in making an informed choice of fuel for cooking or heating
  • monitoring costs, eg by reading meters
  • using the information on electrical appliances to work out their running costs
  • obtaining and evaluating information from public libraries and other local services
  • finding and interpreting reliable information on the content of food
  • planning, managing, sequencing and implementing time plans in the preparation of meals
  • experimenting to discover how fabrics react to heat, light, water and chemicals
  • removing stains from fabrics using the knowledge gained in practical experiments
  • using efficiently a variety of implements including hand operated and electrically driven sewing machines
  • cleaning and making garments and household articles which meet the requirements determined by factors such as personal preferences and fitness for purpose
  • critically appraising data and information from various media, newspapers, books, radio, television, teletext, computer data banks

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  • entertaining adults and children and conversing with them in ways appropriate to the occasion
  • comparing and evaluating the provision of shelter
  • identifying some faults in equipment and carrying out very simple repairs safely, for example, replacing a fuse or plug
  • preparing room plans to take account of the efficient use of space time and energy and the need for comfort
  • carrying out experiments to determine the most effective ways of saving energy
  • through personal contact with young children observing and identifying human developmental needs
  • planning appropriate courses of action to meet the needs of young children and carrying out at least part of the planned action and evaluation
  • planning well balanced diets and cooking and serving attractive and nutritious meals for families, people with special dietary needs, people with different cultural needs, special occasions and low budget groups
  • organising sequences of work in a logical and hygienic manner using equipment and other resources safely and effectively
  • comparing the cost and quality of goods to establish their value for money, relating this to other costs such as the expenditure of time and energy
  • implementing a design brief for a household article or an article of clothing and identifying the particular design features to be met; estimating requirements to carry out the brief and using a pattern simply constructed from drawings or diagrams or a commercial pattern making the household article or article of clothing
  • testing household articles or garments for fitness for purpose.

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Appendix B:
Checklist for primary schools

  • Are the pupils encouraged to listen carefully and to develop a specialist vocabulary about the family and the home as well as a good general vocabulary?
  • During role play activities are opportunities provided for developing sound and unprejudiced attitudes to the family and the home?
  • Have reading schemes been selected which are based on a variety of family life patterns and have those which consistently place 'mother' only in a domestic role and 'father' only as the wage-earner been played down?
  • In helping to develop manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination are appropriate tools and sufficient opportunities for practice provided? Are any difficulties closely observed and problems identified so as to give very specific help?
  • Are older pupils encouraged to read, understand and work from simple instructions and recipes?
  • Are opportunities taken to involve children in creating an aesthetic and pleasant classroom and school environment - as well as in clearing and tidying-up?
  • Are parents or other helpers fully appraised of the purposes of practical work? Are they aware that although a good end product is required it is the learning experience which is fundamental to the task - so that work is not done for the pupils?
  • Are pupils encouraged to talk, to listen to one another, to take turns to contribute and to share?

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Appendix C:
Checklist for home economics teachers

  • Is there a concise statement of aims drawn up by all staff involved in the teaching and are those aims related to those of the school as a whole?
  • Have specific objectives been defined which relate to the aims and provide realistic guidelines for lesson planning?
  • Do individual lesson plans, within a carefully structured sequence, have specific purposes in terms of what it is hoped to teach - concepts, ideas, facts, skills, behaviour and perhaps attitudes?
  • Have individual pupil differences in terms of ability, family and cultural background and interest been taken into account when planning the work?
  • Is the work sufficiently challenging for pupils of all abilities - especially when they are taught in mixed-ability classes?
  • Is there a breadth of study covering the whole subject area, not just a narrow concentration on one or two aspects?
  • Is there agreement among teachers of other subjects and home economists in the school to develop complementary teaching, to avoid undue overlap or omission?
  • Are there discussions with teachers who send to and receive children from the school so that content and approach can be coordinated? Are programmes of work and pupil records passed on? Is there agreement about what pupils might be expected to do?
  • Are the links with parents sufficiently well developed so that out-of-date expectations on either side are not perpetuated? If voluntary parental help or financing is requested is plenty of notice given and is the approach made in the right way?
  • Are pupils' backgrounds and individual needs known and are relevant records kept up-to-date?

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  • Is pupils' work, including experimental and written work, displayed about the school as well as in the home economics area? Is it of high quality?
  • Are pupils encouraged to assess their own work and progress?
  • Is the home economics/home studies area maintained in a clean and hygienic state by pupils, staff and school cleaning staff?
  • Is the space provided adequately resourced for the range of work covered? Is it equipped and organised to facilitate a variety of teaching and learning styles?
  • Is the learning environment attractive? Does it have incidental and directly relevant learning materials displayed and to hand? Do the pupils participate in creating and maintaining the environment?
  • Are books and other learning resources up-to-date and relevant to the needs of pupils of varying ability?
  • If specialist local education authority advisers or inspectors exist are they kept in touch with the work? Is their help sought - not only about resourcing but also on curriculum and staff development?
  • Are members of staff encouraged to continue their professional development?
  • How and when is the work and running of the department evaluated?
  • Is there opportunity for pupils to understand and appreciate their role as members of a family in the context of cultural, social and economic diversity?
  • Is there opportunity for pupils to grow in understanding of the physical, social, emotional, intellectual and aesthetic needs of people at different stages of life? How far do they understand the interdependence of the members of the family and the wider community?
  • Is there opportunity for pupils to plan, prepare and carry out a range of practical and investigative work relating to all aspects of home making and management?

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  • Is there opportunity for pupils to learn how to manage money?
  • Is there opportunity for pupils to develop the consumer skills of observation, discrimination, decision-making and evaluation?
  • Is home economics taught in the context of technological change, does it give the opportunity for pupils to understand and experience new equipment and new products which are the result of technological and scientific advance?
  • Within the constraints imposed by the institution, has careful consideration been given to which examinations and which boards provide appropriate courses and assessment procedures for the pupils?
  • With mixed-target groups has it been possible to find suitable courses, and suitable strategies for teaching these courses?
  • From the outset of the course have the pupils access to, or copies/résumés of, the syllabus, so that they can take an informed responsibility for their own learning?
  • During the process of option choice does the department play its full part in informing pupils and parents about the options, about the courses and about their value in general and specific vocational terms?
  • Does the option choice handbook do justice to the subject?
  • What links are being developed with other areas of the school curriculum and with personal and social educational aspects of the school's work?
  • Have other subject departments been given details of the home economics courses offered?
  • How are pupils with special needs being catered for?
  • How are pupils helped to be aware of opportunities for the next phase of education, or training for employment in relation to the field of home economics?

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Appendix D:
Selected booklist for teachers

Assessment of Performance Unit (APU)
Elizabeth House, York Road, London SE1 7PH

Personal and social development 1981
Physical development 1983
Aesthetic development 1983


Safety in practical studies HMSO, 1981
The school curriculum HMSO, 1981
A view of the curriculum (Matters for Discussion No 11) HMSO, 1980
Girls and science (Matters for Discussion No 13) HMSO, 1980
Education 8-12 in combined and middle schools HMSO, 1985
Schools and working life HMSO, 1981

Equal Opportunities Commission
Overseas House, Quay Street, Manchester M3 3HN

Ending sex stereotyping in schools 1980

National Association of Teachers of Home Economics (NATHE)
Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BJ

Nutrition in action 1976

Nuffield-Chelsea Curriculum Trust
17-21 Conway Street, London W1P 5HL

Nuffield home economics project Hutchinson Education, 1982

Schools Council Projects and Publications

Home and Family 8-13 (Home Economics in the Middle Years). Forbes Publications, 1979
The practical curriculum (Working Paper 70). Methuen Educational, 1981

Scottish Council for Research in Education

Diagnostic assessment in home economics